Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Designer Dog"?

The Obama girls haven't gotten their puppy yet, but there sure has been a lot of talk about what kind of dog they should get. It's interesting to see the reactions people have to the idea of their getting a dog from a breeder, rather than from the pound... People see dogs from breeders as an "elitist arugula-eater's" approach to the situation.

They seem to forget that Malia Obama is allergic to dogs; the Obamas can't just bring any old dog into the White House and expect everything to work out. It's shocking to me that people would rather see them get a dog from the pound that they would have to surrender once Malia's level of respiratory problems reached their peak. Wouldn't it be better for all involved to get a dog that doesn't trigger her allergies? I grew up with mutts, but have developed allergies in the last few years, so this topic is near to my heart.

There are a few breeds out there that are less likely than the rest to launch an allergic person into a full-blown state of misery. The one that I am becoming more and more interested in is the Labradoodle. This breed is on the Obama's list of contenders, as well.

Now, I ask you, is there anything cuter than this chocolate doodle? (Picture from Country Club Doodles.)

"Doodles," as they are affectionately known, are a Poodle/Labrador cross. (There are also Golden Doodles, a cross between Golden Retrievers and Poodles, BTW.) They tend to be smart, highly trainable, calm, great with kids, and, if you get the right generation of hybridization, as close to "hypoallergenic" as a dog can be. Oh, and if you're lucky, they inherit the Lab's love of water. You can get a mini, medium, or "standard" size, depending upon the size of poodle used in the breeding. Their coats can vary in texture and color.

The breed started in Australia when a person with allergies who needed a seeing eye dog approached a breeder and asked what could be done to accommodate their needs. The brilliant breeder came up with this cross. (Well done, you!) Dogs who come from the Australian bloodlines are highly valued. Here's a shot of an Australian doodle who looks like a perfect pal for an active family (right). For more info on the origins of the breed, and about the breed in general, check out the Australian Labradoodle Club of America or the Australian Labradoodle Association of America.

Apparently, the more curly or woolly the coat, the more likely they are to be "hypoallergenic". (I hesitate to use that word, since there are no guarantees with any dog; you MUST test and see how you react to each doodle, just as you would with any dog, before bringing one into a house with someone who's allergic.) There are some doodles whose coats are more wiry, more like a schnauzer or a terrier. They are less "hypoallergenic," but are sure to be great pets and companions. has a great explanation of generations, coat types, and allergy issues.

So why am I going on about doodles this week, besides the fact that I really want one? First, because the breed is an example of good design, and while some people think that's frivolous, I see it as a way to fulfill the needs of several different "user groups." Why should folks who need service dogs have to go without because of allergies, or suffer by having a dog they react to? Why should children lose out on the experience of having a dog because of their allergies? The common argument is that it means there are fewer dogs being rescued from the pound, but the folks with allergies weren't going to adopt one of them anyway... (Now, don't get me wrong; I love supporting the shelters. Every cat I've ever had came from the SPCA, and my next dog would, too, if I weren't allergic!)

The other reason I'm going on and on about doodles is that Alex had a visit in the studio with a couple who were on their way home from picking up their doodle puppy from Johnson's Labradoodles, a breeder in Auburn, NY. It took him 3 days to stop talking about how incredible this 9 week old pup was; very smart, quiet, attentive, affectionate... he fell in love. That made me think about them again. I had stopped torturing myself over them several months ago, when I realized that we don't have the time for a puppy, nor the money to buy one right now.

The couple had nothing but great things to say about the Johnson family, their dogs, and their facilities. From what Alex said, it sounded to me like the couple were "kindred spirits," so I'm inclined to think that their criteria and values may be similar to ours. When our ship comes in, and we're done paying for Alex's new kayak, a dishwasher, and whatever else is on the list, I'm planning on contacting the Johnsons and making a trip up to visit them. Everybody needs a puppy in their life, at some point... but for now I'll have to satisfy myself with pics from the web. Sigh.


  1. We have a female labradoodle from the Johnson's and she is so sweet...if I lived near them I'd be in serious trouble wanting more doodles! Good luck in your wait for a doodle...they are definately worth the wait!

  2. Thanks, PJ - I keep hoping that this year will be the year that we can do this. So many things to put into place...fencing, finances, etc. But I KNOW it will be worth the wait and the planning!


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